Back in 2009, I blogged about how joining a nonprofit board could help solos break into a new practice area, gain new skills or build business contacts . Apparently, big law firms see the value of nonprofit boards for their associates, because they’re signing on with CariClub , a new website that connects law firm associates with non-profit boards, according to Bloomberg which reported the story last week.
CariClub is one of those “darn, why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. Connecting lawyers (or other professionals) to nonprofits is nothing new – my 2009 piece listed several resources for finding non-profit work. But what’s genius about CariClub is that it’s a for-fee membership site that appears to be targeted at large law firms and corporations. In other words, companies pay a subscription to gain access to the network’s 500 non-profits, the majority of which are based in New York, according to Bloomberg. The site doesn’t charge nonprofits to join.
The site focuses on nonprofit board positions presumably because they’re easier for young professionals to join and don’t necessarily require a hefty time commitment, though board members are often asked to participate in fundraising. From a law firm perspective, a seat on a nonprofit board also limits liability since most states offer some type of immunity for Board members.
Can CariClub serve solos and smalls? Interestingly, the site wasn’t launched with big law in mind as a target audience. As Rhoden Monrose, the company founder said to Bloomberg, he doubted that big firms would move quickly to embrace an untested and new idea (though if you can just snag one, the rest follow lock-step ). That said, it’s unclear whether solos or smalls could benefit from joining CariClub as the subscription cost (which isn’t available at the site) might not outweigh the benefits of membership, plus most of the participating nonprofits are based in New York so opportunities, at least for now, are limited. Moreover, in contrast to biglaw attorneys, many solo and small firm lawyers are more involved in the local community and therefore are more likely to stumble across nonprofit opportunities organically either through introductions by colleagues or clients.
So, now it’s your turn to share your story: have you ever served on a non-profit board – and what’s been your experience? Or have you ever reached out to join a board and been rebuffed because you weren’t “important” enough? Share your comments below.